Immunization Campaign Targets Low-Income Families
The Clinton administration today will launch a campaign to increase immunization rates for low-income children, the Los Angeles Times reports. While about 78% of children nationwide have received immunizations against diphtheria, polio, measles and "other potentially deadly diseases," that rate falls to as low as 55% in some communities -- leaving children from low-income families "at high risk for disease outbreaks," according to a White House report (Rosenblatt, Los Angeles Times, 12/11). In response, President Clinton is ordering federal officials to study the immunization status of the "5 million children younger than five who receive government assistance" (AP/Washington Post, 12/11).
Clinton's campaign will monitor these children through the federal Women, Infants and Children program, which provides food stamps and vitamins to pregnant women, new mothers and children up to age five. Although WIC eligibility standards vary from state to state, the program's maximum allowable income is 185% of the federal poverty level, or $31,540 for a family of four. When families visit a WIC facility, they will be asked whether the children have been immunized. If not, parents will be encouraged to visit their own doctors, or if they are uninsured, to obtain free immunizations from public health clinics. As part of the program, WIC centers will maintain immunization records and discuss "[i]nformation on the importance of vaccinations" in their education programs.
Children in the WIC program typically have lower immunization rates than other children of the same age, and because they are from low-income families, they are "much less likely" to have health insurance that covers immunization. Chris Jennings, special White House assistant for health policy, said, "[WIC] is the best point of contact, the best place to reach millions of children." (Rosenblatt, Los Angeles Times, 12/11). In addition, the president's executive memorandum directs the CDC and the USDA to develop a national plan to identify at risk children and "improve immunization rates." The American Academy of Pediatrics also will participate in the campaign by instructing its 55,000 members to "emphasize the importance of timely immunization to their WIC-eligible patients" (AP/Washington Post, 12/11).